Though women buy more than 50 percent of autos sold in the U.S., the number of women who sell them is far less. Women who own dealerships, like Northampton’s Carla Cosenzi, are even scarcer.
Cosenzi, along with her brother, owns Country Nissan in Hadley, Country Hyundai and Northampton Volkswagen, both in Northampton. The face of the businesses started by her father — gracing their television ads for years — Cosenzi has expertly navigated the rapidly changing the auto sales industry. But working with cars was not actually the road she planned on taking.
“I never really saw myself as getting involved in the family business. I wanted to make my own path,” she said. After graduating from Northeastern University she went on to earn a Masters in Clinical Psychology from Columbia, and saw herself working in the research field. But when her dad convinced her to work for him while she sorted out her career plans, the then 24-year-old found herself surprised. “I fell in love with the business. I loved selling. I loved that it was so unexpected to have this young female on the sales floor. It made the experience of buying a car different than they expected, and for me, it just kind of clicked,” she said.
Cut to 15 years later, and Cosenzi is President of TommyCar Auto Group, running three dealerships and overseeing 105 employees. She’s not only working in a business heavily dominated by men, she’s leading it.
“I really struggled with that for years and years – I think I had to work harder,” she said of working in a world dominated by men. “When my brother came in the business, he walked in and was just accepted day one, even though he was younger and very new. It took me a long time to make my place and make a name for myself. It was boots on the ground. I had to come into my own confidence, but once I built that up, everything changed.”
Cosenzi, who is mom to 4-year-old daughter Talia and 2-year-old son Niko, said having children has impacted the way she runs her business, giving her a newfound “balance.” Motherhood has provided her with a different appreciation for her employees who have kids, and has inspired her to find new ways to give back. The charitable arm of her business, Carla Cares, supports non-profit organizations and causes across the region, provides scholarships and has a presence at community events. Their annual golf tournament, in memory of Cosenzi’s father, Tom, has raised more than $830,000 for Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.
Cosenzi admits it can be a challenge to strike the right work-life balance, but she hopes to be setting an example for her children – especially her daughter.
“I want her to see that I can enjoy my career and still be a good mom,” she said. “I would say that for all moms: it’s possible to do both. Lose the guilt, and find a middle ground. When you’re at work give it 100 percent and when you’re at home give it 100 percent, and try not to cross the two.”
BY AMANDA COLLINS BERNIER, SHAWNA SHENETTE PHOTOGRAPHY